IFAW: A day after voting for transparency, international forum for whales meets in secret

(St Helier, Jersey – 14 July 2011) – After a victory yesterday for those seeking to reform the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the annual meeting in Jersey was in disarray today (Thur) after several countries staged a walkout.

A UK proposal on greater transparency and effectiveness at the IWC was adopted by consensus yesterday. Today, a proposal for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary by Brazil and Argentina led to a mid-morning walkout by Japan, Iceland, Norway and other pro-whaling countries.

Many hours of private negotiation eventually brought delegations back to the meeting room late in the evening to hear a report of the day’s proceedings and leave the sanctuary proposal open on the agenda for next year. The meeting then closed without discussion or debate on many conservation proposals and other matters before the Commission.

Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW’s Global Whale Programme, said: “Just a day after adopting a sweeping resolution to improve the transparency and effectiveness of this body, member governments of the IWC have spent most of today meeting in secret.

“After some progress for the IWC and whale conservation yesterday, the IWC is now being pushed to the brink by these actions. Japan wants to kill whales, and it may be willing to kill this Commission to do it. IFAW continues to push for greater protection for our planet’s whales and we believe it is essential that the IWC functions effectively as a conservation body for whales.”

IFAW backed the UK paper as a vital measure to secure the IWC’s future credibility and effectiveness. IFAW believes the final resolution is a step in the right direction for the forum, despite some initial proposals being dropped to achieve necessary backing from all member countries.

In light of widely reported accusations of corruption aimed at the IWC in recent years, the UK’s package aims to reduce secrecy in the IWC, outlaw last minute cash payment of dues and ensure improved governance and proper and timely reporting of Commission decisions within 14 days of meetings having taken place.

Following lengthy debate between many of the IWC’s 89 member countries over two days, proposals on NGO participation were dropped from the final UK resolution, but the proposal on banning cash payments, which had divided many, was retained.

IFAW also supports the plans for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary which it hopes will achieve success at next year’s meeting.
Under the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary proposal, commercial whaling would be prohibited in the region. There would also be increased non-lethal whale research so that more information can be gathered on threatened species.

IFAW works around the world to protect whales from the many threats they face, including commercial whaling. IFAW opposes whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary. There is no humane way to kill a whale and with little appetite for whale meat these days, meat from slaughtered whales frequently lies unused in frozen storage. IFAW promotes responsible whale watching as a humane and sustainable alternative to the cruelty of whaling.


For more information or to arrange interviews with IFAW’s IWC team please contact Clare Sterling on mobile +44 (0)7917 507717 or email csterling@ifaw.org

About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Notes to Editors –

Actor John Nettles is backing IFAW’s work to protect whales at the IWC. The stage and screen star, known to millions as DCI Tom Barnaby in ITV’s long-running
Midsomer Murders, which he starred in until earlier this year, also has a long association with Jersey, which was the location for BBC’s Bergerac, another hit series in which he played a detective.

He said: “I’m proud to support IFAW’s campaign to protect whales. It is vital that the International Whaling Commission meeting in Jersey adopts the strongest possible level of protection for whales across the world.”

In 1982, the IWC voted to establish an indefinite worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling. The moratorium came into effect with the 1985-86 Antarctic and 1986 Northern Hemisphere seasons.

Japan initially lodged a formal objection to the moratorium decision, which it later dropped, but continued whaling without interruption by abusing a loophole in the IWC Convention which permits ‘scientific research’. IFAW believes this is sham science, and that so-called scientific whaling is merely commercial whaling by another name. Under pressure from many fronts, Japan called an early halt to its whaling activities in Antarctica earlier this year (February 2011), heading back to port early from the Southern Ocean Sanctuary having taken less than half of its projected quota of around 1,000 whales.

Norway has maintained its objection, and continues to conduct commercial whaling in the North Atlantic. There is a shrinking domestic market for whale meat and in recent years Norway has normally caught 400-500 whales (which is around half its self-allocated catch limit).

Initially, Iceland did not object to the moratorium, but hunted whales for ‘science’ until 1989. In 1992, Iceland left the IWC, but rejoined in 2002 with a retroactive reservation to the moratorium. Iceland resumed whaling in 2003 for ‘scientific research’ and resumed commercial whaling in 2006, although polling has revealed only around 5% of Icelanders claim to eat whale meat regularly (Gallup, 2010). In 2011, Iceland continues to hunt minke whales but this season’s fin whaling is currently on hold with whaling station employees laid off due to lack of market for the meat.